Metformin: a metabolic disruptor and anti-diabetic drug to target human leukemia

Cancer Lett. 2014 May 1;346(2):188-96. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2014.01.006. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


There is a global and urgent need for expanding our current therapeutical arsenal against leukemia in order to improve their actual cure rates and fight relapse. Targeting the reprogrammed, altered cancer metabolism is an emerging strategy which should profoundly affect cancer cells in their intimate and irrepressible needs and addictions for nutrients uptake and incorporation into the biomass during malignant proliferation. We present here how metformin, an anti-diabetic drug that has attracted a strong interest for its recently discovered anti-cancer properties, can be envisioned as a new adjuvant approach to treat leukemia. Metformin may have a double-edged sword effect (i) by acting on the organism to decrease hyperglycaemia and hyperinsulinemia in diabetic patients and (ii) at the cellular level, by inhibiting the mTORC1-cancer supporting pathway through AMPK-dependent and independent mechanisms.

Keywords: AMPK; Acute leukemia; Adjuvant chemotherapy; Metformin; mTOR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Leukemia / drug therapy*
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin